Challenges facing Tourism Industry in Tanzania:
The Case of Babati Town Council
Julian Page- Director of the Livingstone Tanzania Trust
Tourism around the world continues to grow at a remarkable rate and this is reflected in the statistics for Tanzania as the countries is close to reaching 1,000,000 a year. Tourism is one of Tanzania’s major exports and sources of foreign income. The current policy of the Tanzanian Government is to encourage high spend high volume tourism into Tanzania, a policy that often is at a tangent to the needs of the cultural tourism programmes which are targeted at a different market segment. The marketing strategy for Tanzania across the world is to promote the country as the home of Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar. Whilst these are the most famous tourist sites, the strategy fails to highlight some of the other attractions which would benefit from additional coverage. Tanzania is also famous for its wildlife, the great migration across the Serengeti, the Ngorongoro crater and other such National parks. But tourism is mostly confined to the northern circuit in which these sites belong and the access point of Kilimanjaro International Airport. Tourism also focuses on Zanzibar and a few national parks around the Dar es salaam area. Tourism outside of these areas is small and for the more adventurous traveller.
Babati, the capital of the Manyara region is on the outskirts of the northern circuit and the trickle of tourists that come through are mostly low budget tourists on a cultural tourism programme or on their way to other destinations.
This paper therefore seeks to identify and examine the opportunities and challenges that the Babati Town Council face as they seek to improve their fledgling tourism industry.
Where to start?
The most important part of any service industry is to understand the wants and needs of the customers – in this case tourists. But are the needs of the tourists all the same? Different types of tourist seek different services and different experiences. It is therefore important to determine what type of tourist the attractions that are in the neighbourhood will attract.
Know your product
It is vital that the Town Council is aware of what it is that they are selling. They must therefore commission a detailed investigative survey to identify as many potential tourist destinations as possible. With this information one can start to link the attractions with the type of tourist segment most likely to enjoy them.
With the product in mind, it is important to consider an impact analysis, what is the optimum number of tourists that each attraction can cater for without having a negative impact on the attraction, the surrounding environment and the local communities. It is a common mistake to try to maximise revenue by having high numbers of visitors which then reduces the quality of the experience that tourists feel.
Armed with this information one will be able to identify the optimum number of tourists that Babati ought to seek to attract.
It is not enough to have a tourist attraction; many other factors must be considered during the development process. Some of these will be considered big picture issues and some local issues, but all are important.
- How will the tourist get to know about the attractions?
- How will the tourist get to Babati?
- Where will the tourist stay?
- How can tourists be made safe
- How can the tourist get to the attraction?
- What information needs to be available to bring the attraction to life?
- How can the local community benefit from the tourist visit?
- What and where will the tourist eat and drink?
Big Picture Issues
Infrastructure – Many tourists are only in Tanzania for 7-12 days and the need to travel between A and B safely, in a certain degree of comfort and at an acceptable speed is vital. Tourists will not travel 4 hours to get to an attraction where they stay for 1 hour unless that attraction is of huge historical, cultural or environmental importance. For most attractions the relationship between travel and destination is a key factor. The poor state of repair of the road is a key factor that is going to limit the number of tourists visiting Babati.
Whilst some tourists will travel by private car or Safari Company others will come using public transport. The tourists on the public transport need to be safe and comfortable that the bus is road worthy and able to get them to their destination in one piece and within the expected timetable. The type of tourist the town council is seeking to attract will determine the level of uptake on the public bus services.
The temperamental nature of the electrical supply is also a hindrance, whilst short losses of power can be ignored, prolonged outages can cause frustration and upset.
Water is a crucial issue for everyone. Tourists will want to enjoy a shower at the end or/and the beginning of the day. To not be able to shower is a great frustration to many tourists. Similarly the majority of tourists will be uncomfortable without a western style toilet, this will also have a water demand. It is important that the water demands of the tourists do not have a negative impact on the availability of water for the local community.
Marketing – Getting the tourists around the world to know about your attractions requires a marketing strategy that operates on many fronts. The tourism board, websites, travel guides, trade magazines, local national and international press, local signage and literature, a DVD documentary of not just the destinations but the whole process detailed in this paper could help promote Babati. Awards for tourism activities are a good way of getting recognition.
Having identified the attractions and the market segment that they attract, the next challenge is to establish a two way consultation process with each affected community. To explain the concept and the opportunities that it could bring and provide suitable time for feedback. Without there being an agreement, active involvement and direct benefit to the community, the attractions will not work.
What are the potential benefits to the local community?
There must be opportunity for the local community to sell to the tourist, be it baskets, jewellery, food, drinks, or guide services. This type of pro-poor participation can be highlighted in the marketing materials. To ensure that this service is available but not intrusive and beneficial to the community there must be some capacity building. It is advisable that the community establish a group to provide this service so that no one person benefits above others. Any inequality will lead to resentment and could damage the quality of the tourism experience. The income received by the group can be used in many ways, either to establish community projects or to act as a local saving and loan scheme to assist villagers build up their own businesses. These matters need to be included in the initial consultation process
Accommodation must be suited to the market segment and the quality must be reflected by the suppliers. There are certain standards that ought to be met regardless:- security; cleanliness; good service; western toilets, reliable hot showers. The ability to speak English is a great help as most tourists will be able to speak some English regardless of where they are from.
Food – The food and drinks must be safe to eat. The raw materials, where possible, ought to be refrigerated, to prevent food becoming contaminated. Food safety must be real and be visibly real to build confidence in the tourist. Tourists will want to try local dishes and will want to know that the local farmers are providing the food. Keeping the supply chain local is vital to the development of the local community. People would rather buy a safe locally made drink than buy an imported drink or a drink from a global company, the same goes for food. The food vendors need to be close to the accommodation and close to the attraction.
Security – The visitors must at no point feel that they are in harm’s way. One negative story about tourism can harm a destination for years. Consideration to security must be made at all destinations and in Babati. This will not necessary mean a police presence or the presence of a security guard. The local community ought to be able to ensure the security of their visitors. Ensuring the community are involved and benefit from the tourism is key to ensuring success.
The local attractions – how will the tourism get to the local attractions? Can they walk or do they need the services of a taxi. There must be publicised standard fares to and from tourist destinations to ensure that drivers do not exploit their visitors and the visitors know that they are getting a fair price. If the visitor is walking, there needs to be signage and maps available of the area to allow greater independence. Many tourists will want to be independent on occasion.
When the tourist gets the local attraction there needs to be information about the attraction, what it is, why is it an attraction? What is the cultural, historical or environmental significance of the attraction? This ought to be printed on a take away leaflet which can be passed to other tourists. The leaflet could also be sponsored by a local hotel or restaurant and so act as a marketing opportunity. It may be necessary to charge an entry fee to the attraction. This fee ought to be small so as not to discourage tourists. Tsh5000 per person is not unreasonable, more than that and the tourist will start to ask if it is worth the visit. There ought to be a clear sign saying where the money from the attraction goes and these needs to be agreed and followed up. This can be a strong marketing tool if used correctly.
The skills needed to develop a tourism industry are very different from the skills needed to run a growing town and it may be that there is not the skill set or the available time with the current resources to tackle this project. Assistance can be found in many places including from Universities in Tanzania and the UK. Community consultation and participation is a slow process but vital to project sustainability and success. Bringing in external skills to assist with this process and develop the skills in the communities around the attraction is advisable.
The challenges facing the Babati Town council are considerable but not insurmountable if the attractions in the surrounding area are of significant interest to the tourist. The involvement of the community from the outset is of paramount importance if tourism is to have an impact on the poverty alleviation strategy of the country. The local community must be able to participate in every level of the supply chain. Where existing skills or capacity does not exist, it ought to be brought in from to assist. It is important that a continual review process be adopted to ensure that both positive and impacts are identified and assessed and methods altered where required.